...Morgan’s political-allegory circuits are always on overdrive. In Thin Air he draws a detailed satirical picture of a multitude of conflicting interests on Mars, always plotting under its “paprika sky"... I regret to report that there are several scenes of physical congress of the type that employ the word “mound”, but they do advance the plot in an HBO sexposition sort of way... Luckily most of the action happens outside the bedroom, and it’s expertly written. Morgan is very good at the mild, pleasurable alienation of unexplained but workable-out vocabulary items... Most of all, Tak Veil’s first-person narration is addictive and deceptively highly wrought: it’s casual and coarse, as befits a former mercenary, yet highly imagistic and sensuously attuned... By the end, rather unkindly, you hope he gets sucked back into it in a sequel.
His new novel isn’t set in that universe but rather the same one as 2007’s Black Man, where certain people undergo technological body modification that gifts them with superhuman reflexes and combat skills. One such individual, disgraced former corporate enforcer Hakan Veil, is stranded on Mars, a lawless frontier world chafing against the bonds imposed by colonialist oppressor Earth. Veil is employed as bodyguard to Madison Madekwe, who is helping conduct an “audit” of the Red Planet. Noirish, profanity-laced and ultraviolent, Thin Air is Raymond Chandler meets William Gibson, its tone of relentless cynicism undercut by a strong sense of social conscience.
Returning fans of Richard K. Morgan will immediately recognize the author’s high octane writing style. Back when Altered Carbon was released, Morgan’s moody future-noir atmosphere and ultra-vivid imagery reminded me of Sprawl-trilogy-era William Gibson (except considerably darker and more violent), but fifteen years later I don’t think that comparison is entirely valid. In a nutshell, what you’re reading is the interior monologue of a classic Morgan anti-hero in all its darkly cynical glory, interspersed with snappy and often snarky dialogue, spectacularly violent action sequences, and the occasional graphic sex scene. There are a few parts that drag, especially towards the end, but the vast majority of the novel is fast-paced and hard to put down.